Horizontal Heavens Observatory "...From  A Galaxy Far, Far Away"
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This page was last updated on 08/28/14.

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Nearby Lightning Strike Takes Out Observatory Electronics

Late August to early September 2009 a nearby lightning strike took out most of my electronics in the observatory.  Since it is not wise to hang out in an elevated fiberglass dome during storms, it was a week or so before I realized what had occurred.  I actually had not thought much about the past storms in the area but started paying very close attention once I found that my equipment would not boot and/or operate!  All said and done, this incident cost roughly $3,500 in repairs and my homeowner's insurance deductible was $1k off the top.  I do have to say that I was quite lucky in that my ST-10XME and ST-402ME cameras had only ~$400 in repairs to both CCD's guider relays.  Replacing the entire cameras would have more than quadrupled the repair bill. 

(below) Observatory Computer - Motherboard transistor and area burnt.  Funny thing about this was that the PC would occasionally boot and run locally but was not dependable.  After replacing the PC in the observatory and getting the observatory back up and fully functioning, I went back and parted out the damaged PC and replaced the motherboard, trying to rehab this machine.  It worked.  I was eventually able to salvage the processor, memory, both HDs, etc. and return the PC to service.  It appears that the motherboard was damaged in the area that controls networking/communications.  This was further proof of just where the electrical ground surge originated from (telephone line).

(below) Gemini Controller For MI-250 Mount- Most of the visible damage to the controller was in the autoguider circuitry that was connected to the PC via USB hubs.  The main IC was scrambled as well and refused to boot.  Several other resisters and capacitors metered out as bad even though they lacked physical damage.  Ended up replacing the main PCB (only) after acquiring a second used complete Gemini system and testing the remaining parts (motors and hand controller) on the original unit.  Total cost remained the same but allowed me to have a backup for the "next" time.

(below) USB Hubs - Both the 7-Port USB-Gear as well as the CAT5/USB-Extender hubs were both blown.  After reconfiguring my imaging setup, I was able to eliminate the CAT5/USB-Extender and utilize just one 7-Port hub for all my electronics on the pier.  "BEST PRACTICES" now has me disconnecting the USB cable to the hub as well as unplugging the surge protector thus isolating all equipment on the pier from any other potential ground source.  Surge protectors were replaced with much higher quality units that also offered protection to CAT5, telephone, coax, as well as 120v power.